Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

Blog Notes Photos Links Archives About

The Price for Being the Best

"The price for being the best is always... having to be the best."

  • Terry Pratchet, Lords and Ladies

This is one of my favorite quotes. For context: in the story, one of the characters has a special talent that he can shoe anything anyone gives him (like when you put horseshoes on a horse). And Granny Weatherwax tells him that the price he pays for that talent is that when someone brings him something to shoe, no matter how wild or ridiculous the request, he has to do it.

In real life of course, the literal interpretation is ridiculous. You are not obligated to do something just because you are the "best" at that something. But being the "best" at something implies two things:

  1. People are more inclined to come to you whenever they need help or advice with what you're best at.
  2. If you want to keep being the "best" at that thing, you have to keep doing it, and you have to keep surpassing yourself.

I have a variant of this quote that I used a lot in a previous job, where people often came to me with their technical problems and asked me for help in solving them, so a lot of my time was taken up by helping solve other people's problems. I would jokingly complain "Ang hirap talaga maging magaling!" It's hard being so good! - implying that being magaling gave me so much additional work.

Once you put yourself in a position of leadership in your field, there will be pressure to maintain that position by constantly improving and learning and showing your skills by helping other people. Humility disclaimer: I'm not claiming to be the best software developer by any stretch, it was probably more of a big fish in a small pond scenario. But the quote above is a reminder for me that pursuing excellence has a price often unmentioned, and you have to be sure you are willing to pay that price, and that it's worth it for you.